Final plans made for North Shore

GLADSTONE — After months of discussion and community input, Gladstone residents and community stakeholders looked at the final planning recommendations for the city’s northern shore from educators and planners connected with Michigan State University’s (MSU) Sustainable Built Environment Initiative (SBEI) during the third and final North Shore Project meeting Monday.

The North Shore Project, which is a joint project between the city and MSU’s School of Planning, Design, and Construction and MSU Extension, focuses on how to best utilize the properties collectively known as “the North Shore.” Together, the properties cover approximately 50 acres and are owned by various stakeholders, including the city of Gladstone, Upper Lakes Holding, Inc., Fox River Terminals, Inc., Danforth Enterprises, Inc., and Medallion Management Inc.

While any development of the North Shore would require the cooperation of property owners and significant amounts of both time and money, the plan developed through the the North Shore Project meetings aims to be a starting point and to show residents and potential developers what the future of the properties could hold.

“This is the final presentation, so at this point it’s sort of a hand-off to the community, and it is certainly a final project as far as our involvement, but it’s at the beginning stage for the city of Gladstone,” said Brad Neumann, MSU senior extension educator, who specializes in land use planning and has been involved with the North Shore Project since it began earlier this year.

The first meeting, held in February, looked at what residents felt about the properties as they exist today. Those in attendance at the meetings were asked what they “felt sorry about” with regards to the North Shore, what they were proud of the property for, and what they would like to see in the area if they were to fly over the North Shore in a hot air balloon 15 years from now.

Residents raised concerns about the smell of neighboring industrial sites, the property’s status as a brownfield site — meaning it was previously used for purposes that may have contaminated the property — and that there is little infrastructure. However, many positive attributes were also discussed at that meeting, including the walleye habitat in the bay, the site’s historical significance, that they area is essentially a blank slate for developers.

Taking that information and the wide range of hopes that residents had for the site, the SEBI educators and planners went to the drawing board to develop a potential plan for the North Shore, which included various types of residential properties, office spaces, and amenities like a hotel and brew pub. That initial plan was reviewed at a meeting in June, where community members were asked to write down their thoughts about the proposal on sticky notes and place the notes on the plan and supporting architectural images and photographs. The notes were then used to fine-tune the plan to fit the unique desires of Gladstone residents.

Monday’s meeting showed residents the culmination of the notes and the two prior meetings. Resident input nixed a boat launch included in the June plan and architectural styles that residents felt weren’t a good fit for the city were removed. However, most of the plan remained the same, with the core of the development featuring various types of residential properties including single family homes and townhouses. Around the far edges of the North Shore and acting as a buffer between the North Shore development and neighboring development sites were 21st Century office spaces, mixed use buildings, a hotel, and a brew pub.

“When you get all said and done, the final concept plan didn’t look that much different than the last one,” said Warren Rauhe, associate professor emeritus of landscape architecture at MSU.

Despite the lack of a traditional boat launch, the revised plan included the creation of a “quiet water” launch and dock, which is a smaller type of launch for kayaks and canoes. Other features for residents wanting to enjoy outdoor opportunities included a fishing pier that extends into known walleye habitat and walkable design that incorporates non-motorized pathways for walking and bicycling.

One other aspect of the plan that was well-received by residents was the name given to the proposed development, “North Shore Dunes.”

“We got sticky note, after sticky note, after sticky note — we got a dozen and a half sticky notes that said ‘hey, that’s a great name,’ and whether you go with that name or not, or whether a developer goes with the name or not, that’s up to you, but very seldom do we put a name on something and get a response like that,” said Rauhe.

Whatever name the development would eventually go by, the city must now look for funding opportunities, look at zoning and development agreements with property owners, and develop a marketing plan aimed at developers that would not compete with the city’s existing downtown.

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